Friday, September 18, 2015


Well, for those of you who haven’t heard from me in months, I’ve been busy changing my home space and continuing – with only occasional stumbles - on my minimalist journey. The change was radical. We bought an old RV. And for the past four months we – my husband and I – have lived in a 30-foot RV along with our one gray, outdoor cat. Our RV is parked in a rather large, tree-lined mobile park. Here, we have all the services and Internet for our general creature comfort. 
On the basis of our recent experiences, I can say that  life can improve by living with less - all that depending, of course, on what sort of person you are. For us, the minimalist life is challenging, empowering and fun. Saying no to consumer overkill is a tough skill to acquire, but once we had it, we easily gave up a bunch of things that other people still cling to and started to live life on your own terms. 

As we were to become RV full-timers, we prepared to rid ourselves of virtually everything that we deemed unnecessary. And, for us, holding on to just the essentials is a great satisfaction.

What fits, in the way of furniture, are only the original RV built-ins. So, all our old furniture had to go. Other personal possessions needed to be weeded out. For example, my wardrobe is now a third of what it was 12 months ago. My husband's held on to about half of the clothes he had. As for household items, we started downsizing a while back when we still lived in regular housing. We took an audit of our bedding, towels, toiletries, kitchen items, electronics. We kept only the best and what we truly used. We got rid of one of our cars 12 months ago. Now we have only one small car and a motorcycle that gets my husband to work. That seems just right for our life in a small town where almost everything is less than a half-hour drive. 

Despite our efforts to prepare for life in the RV, we had to face the fact that the living space is extremely limited – beyond what we could have imagined. So, for the first two months in the RV, we rented a storage unit for the overflow. We also gave a lot away to friends and to the thrift store. We were still cramped for space. There was a real lack of space for my kitchen stuff. And I thought I didn’t have so much. Well, as I’ve found out, I had way much more than I needed. At first, I had kitchen stuff hidden in every sort of place well beyond the tiny kitchen - into the living area and under the bed. I realized that I would have to sort through and keep just what was the most necessary. And that I’ve done and probably will continue to do over the next few months. 

Also, when we moved in, I knew that we wouldn’t have space for a formal book shelf. Our books had to be tucked away in a couple of overhead compartments. That meant that the total - for me - couldn’t be more than a couple of dozen books. And, as in other areas of my material life, I thought about why I was holding onto treasured things and what would happen if I let them go. I spent a whole morning sorting through and donated about thirty books to a community library. And, now, I am the proud owner of 20 books – 6 non-fiction, 12 yoga and self-help books, and just two cookbooks. (Because of their usefulness, cutting back on cookbooks was something that I found especially difficult.)

Finally, settling down to just two cookbooks.

Anyway, that’s the introduction to what I’m talking about today – the downsizing of my cookbook collection. Just a year ago, I had - maybe - twelve cookbooks of all sizes, shapes, age and content. I had believed - erroneously, I imagine - that twelve was a small number. Twelve seemed to be only a few when compared to some friends who report having as many as fifty cookbooks. (What they do with all of them I really don’t know.) It seems if you love to cook, you probably have been collecting a lot of cookbooks. So, this must be a particularly challenging area for library downsizing. 

Of the dozen that I had in the apartment, I'd kept three cookbooks for the RV kitchen. They were: Better Home and Gardens - classic
loose-leaf, 5-ringed edition, Frugal Gourmet, and a really old, paperback Joy of Cooking that I'd been carrying around for decades. I felt rather proud of myself for having eliminated well over half of my collection. Still, after a while, I realized that I didn’t need all three and decided to do something about it. Going only e-recipe cooking wasn't a good option for me. While I do sometimes look up recipes on the Internet, most of the time I prefer the tried and true meals from traditional cookbooks. The recipes that I use tend to be easily made as given or simply modified accorded to my whim or, more often, after the lack of one or another ingredients that are included in the write-up. I also had a collection made up of recipe clips from magazines, Internet print-outs and fully hand-written pages. 

For most of the dishes that I like to make, I choose recipes from cookbooks with traditional American recipes. But then, again, I occasionally want to do some ethnic dishes – mostly Indian, Italian and Mexican. I really don't care much about the photos. Also, fortunately, I had no sentimental cookbook inherits from my mom or grandmas.

What I finally did was keep the Better Homes and Gardens. That was the most useful as it was – minus the meat, fish, and poultry sections that I removed. As a vegetarian, I was 99+% sure that I wouldn't be using anything in those sections. I held onto about forty separate pages of ethnic cooking recipes from the Frugal Gourmet book. It was an old paperback and falling apart, anyway. So, I didn't have to feel so bad about that. I put the Frugal Gourmet pages
in the Better Homes and Gardens book, punching holes and separating them into the same food divisions already there.   My diverse recipe clips were transferred to hand-written pages in a special binder that I found on sale at the bookstore. The twenty or so Joy of Cooking pages that I saved were small and fit into plastic page covers in the binder. To tell the truth, a good part of the things in the binder are still in the form of printed pages, computer printouts or magazine clips, awaiting the day, if it ever comes, when I get around to transferring them into nicely hand-written pages.

For those of you who like the idea of cutting back to only a few cookbooks, I urge you to do so. Just start slow and enjoy the activity. Look at one book at a time. Take time to pull the book off the shelf and consider if it's really worth it according to your time and skills. Honor your emotions. Send all those that don't make the cut to someone else, so they'll have a new home. Other books that aren't so valuable  can be donated to the thrift store. You should be happy with the remaining cookbooks. Any other recipe that you might need for some special occasion can easily be found on Internet cooking blogs.


Mary Wood said...

I have Mother's and I know why you kept those particular cook books. They are familiar. My same books are tucked away on a shelf in my kitchen.

Grandma Susan said...

Yes. The older cookbooks and their newer revivals still have the best of U.S.A. cooking. Mom knew what she was doing.